June 21, 1846 Miss Barrett writes to Browning about her friend, Hugh Boyd:
"I forgot to tell you that yesterday I went to Mr Boyd’s house .. not to see him,
but as a preliminary step to seeing him. Arabel went to his room to tell him of
my being there—we are both perhaps rather afraid of meeting after all these
years of separation. Quite blind he is—& though scarcely older than Mr
Kenyon, (perhaps a year or two or three) so nervous, that he has really made
himself infirm, & now he refuses to walk out or even to go down stairs. A
very peculiar life he has led ever since he lost his sight, which he did when he
was quite a young man—and a very peculiar person he is in all possible ways. His
great faculty is .. memory .. & his great passion .. Greek—to which
of late he has added Ossian. Otherwise, he talks like a man of slow mind,
which he is, .. & with a child’s way of looking at things, such as would
make you smile—oh, he talks in the most wonderfully childish way! Poor Mr Boyd.
He cares for me perhaps more than he cares for any one else .. far more than for
his own only daughter,—but he is not a man of deep sensibility, &, if he
heard of my death, would merely sleep a little sounder the next night. Once he
said to me that whenever he felt sorry about anything, he was inclined to go to
sleep. An affectionate & grateful regard .. grateful for many kindnesses ..
I bear him, for my part. He says that I should wear the crown in poetry, if I
would but follow Pope—but that the dreadful system of running lines one into
another, ruins everything. When I talk of memory, I mean merely the
mechanical faculty. The associative, which makes the other a high power,
he wants. So I went to his house in St John’s Wood yesterday, & saw the
little garden. Poor Mr Boyd. There, he lives, all alone—& never leaving his
chair! yet cheerful still, I hear, in all that desolation. As for you &
Tennyson, he never heard of you .. he never guesses at the way of modern
literature .. & it is the intense compliment to me when he reads verses of
mine, “notwithstanding my corrupt taste,” .. to quote his own words."
Many of her letters to Boyd are published and quite entertaining. We have looked at a few in this blog. The way to learn a language is to use it and she learned and grew in her Greek by reading Greek to this blind Greek scholar. It is easy to understand how her knowledge of the Greek surpassed his own due to the limitations of intake to a blind man and also, her personal obsession. Her description of him is interesting and complex.
For those curious about Ossian here is the link the the Wiki overview. Apparently Boyd was interested in the controversy over it's authenticity as actual translations from Scots Gaelic.